There is perhaps no bigger buzz in software development right now than the Agile process. Why? Because if there’s one thing software developers can’t stand it’s putting their heart and soul into building something that nobody uses. Agile is the cure for waste and inefficiency and Carmel, Ind.-based NextGear Capital is a company on the cutting edge of using Agile to grow by billions of dollars.
If you’re not familiar with NextGear Capital, here’s a little background. Essentially, NextGear is in the business of financing virtually any kind of vehicle with an engine and helping dealers manage and grow their businesses. Of course, this simplistic description belies the enormous and integral impact technology has on the business, but I’ll get to that next.
NextGear is a Greater Indianapolis area-based subsidiary of Cox Automotive, the parent company of well-known brands like Kelley Blue Book, autotrader.com and Manheim. Built from the ground up in 2014 to handle dealer lending and management services, NextGear hired 100 software developers and other tech-related employees in the first two years and grew by at least $1 billion each year. So far in 2016, NextGear has hired another 60 people working in technology capacities and the company is expected to grow by another $1 billion.
“I would be willing to bet that there is not another organization around that is farther along in their agile journey than NextGear Capital because we had the privilege of starting from scratch like that.”
The “brain melting” Everly talks about comes in because of the way NextGear measures the value of everything his technology group executes or even considers doing. Whether it saves the company money, improves efficiency or makes customers happier, for example, NextGear’s Agile process places a dollar value on the project that can be measured after the software is delivered.
“At our most recent company-wide meeting I took a handful of the things we delivered and could directly tie them to $9 million in value and savings and that was just a few things from a single quarter’s worth of effort,” Everly said. “The fact that we’re using Agile in this way is what I think puts us about two generations beyond where most people are with the methodology.”
According to Everly, it’s Chris Lenzo, vice president of technology, who drives the Agile culture within NextGear and has championed its adoption throughout the organization.
In sharp contrast to the year-long or 18-month traditional project development processes many people are used to, with Agile everything happens in two-week increments with immediate delivery and feedback. NextGear currently operates 18 different Agile-based technology groups, or what Lenzo called “two-pizza teams,” because if it takes more than two pizzas to feed them they are probably too big.
One key differentiator at NextGear is that exposure to Agile is not limited to the technology practice. The company’s entire management team is Agile trained and the commitment to Agile as the way NextGear operates is pervasive. Growing from zero to more than 160 software developers and technologists and adding billions to the balance sheet inside of three years makes it pretty easy to see why NextGear Capital’s leadership is all-in with Agile.
NextGear continues to grow — they currently have a couple dozen open positions including several tech jobs — and Everly expects the size of the Technology group to top 220 team members by the end of 2017.